Amber Laurie: Alumni Profile

Amber Laurie graduated from the MS in Biostatistics program in 2014 and completed a thesis titled "Meta-analysis of the influence of the patient characteristics on the effectiveness and harms of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) in lumbar spinal fusion."


Q.  What is your educational and professional background?

My Bachelor's degree is in Psychology with a minor in education. I worked in education for a while before I became a research assistant in the psychiatry department at OHSU.

Q. Why did you decide to pursue the MS in Biostatistics at OHSU?

I have always liked math and science. I was considering applying for a master's program in statistics, but I was afraid that it would be too abstract and not hold my interest. From my perspective, Biostatistics has the best of both worlds. It allows me to use math in a very applied way to answer interesting scientific questions. Biostatistics is also flexible in that there are so many fields in which you can apply it.

Q. How would you describe the learning environment in the required and elective courses?

I find the classes to be quite interactive. The professors always encouraged asking questions both in and out of class. Professors and teaching assistants were helpful, quick to respond via email, and happy to meet in person when needed. Classes included real life examples of data analysis, and we often worked with datasets from actual studies.

Q. Can you describe a project that you worked on in the program?

As a part of the surveys class, students were asked to complete a real life design and implementation of a survey. I paired up with an MPH student who had worked at the needle exchange in Vancouver, WA. We designed and implemented a program survey to obtain basic information about the clients of the needle exchange as well as assess what percent of their clients would be candidates for take-home naloxone (a drug that can counteract an opiate overdose). It was a great hands-on experience, and it was an excellent opportunity to collaborate with an MPH student who had strong ties to the public health community.

Q. Can you tell us about your current job?

I am a Research Associate and Biostatistician at OHSU, primarily with the Emergency Department. I work under a PhD-level Biostatistician to assist faculty and scholars with their research. Every day is different since I have a variety of projects in different stages. Today I worked on an NIH grant application, did data analysis for a manuscript, and reviewed an abstract. 

Q. Did the MS in Biostatistics help you obtain this position, and if so, how?

I was very lucky to be offered this position by my Biostatistics mentor upon graduation. During the course of my studies, I also obtained part time work in the field based on a recommendation from a faculty member under whom I had studied. My time in the Biostatistics department and my relationships with faculty have been pivotal in my career development. 


Q. How do you apply concepts and skills that you learned in the program in your daily work?

Every day I use the skills and knowledge that I learned in the program. Almost more important is that I learned how to use my skills to learn new methods.  Statistics is an ever-changing and vast field. You will not graduate knowing everything you will ever need to know, but the program will teach you the skills to continue learning.

Q. What kind of advice would you give to potential applicants to the MS in Biostatistics program?

Be curious and be an active student in class. You should be prepared to work hard. Make friends with fellow students. Get involved with the local chapter of the ASA (American Statistical Association). Have fun!